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Tuesday, 06 October 2015 00:00

Non-invasive treatment inspired by WW2 submarines is Alzheimer’s best hope

Non-invasive treatments are the aim of medical advancements.  In the past and still today, many procedures designed to eliminate or treat diseases that attack a certain part of the body cannot be restricted to a single area.  In the course of these treatments or surgeries, tissue and cells surrounding the treated area can become damaged.  While the consequences of this may be less than that of living with the disease, invasive treatments in areas like the brain can have dire effects on any number of the body’s functions if they are damaged in any way.
 
The successful trial of a non-invasive Alzheimer’s treatment, which was published in Science Translational Medicine, is a huge breakthrough. Importantly, the treatment is non-invasive, which means it does not require intricate surgery to perform any risky procedures directly to the brain.  It has also shown the most promising results in reversing the damage done by the amyloid plaques which cause the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

Applying the same sonar technology used by WW2 submarines to detect nearby activity, scientists from the Queensland Brain Institute effectively managed to break apart the neurotoxic amyloid plaques that cause the symptoms of Alzheimer’s - memory loss and cognitive decline, by scanning the brain with ultrasound waves that oscillate at a very high rate.  This action activates microglial cells that effectively digest the harmful plaques.
 
The results of the study which have so far only been completed on mice who were injected with the Alzheimer’s causing plaques in order to show symptoms, showed that not only did the treatment significantly reduce the build-up of amyloid plaques, but it fully restored lost memory.  The non-invasive method of this treatment meant that the mice showed no other adverse effects to the treatment.
 
Professor Jürgen Götz, founding director and researcher at the Institute is excited about the potential of the treatment based on the results.  “With an aging population placing an increasing burden on the health system, an important factor is cost, and other potential drug treatments using antibodies will be expensive.  In contrast, this method uses relatively inexpensive ultrasound and microbubble technology which is non-invasive and appears highly effective."

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